The Commonwealth of Virginia is set to join the growing number of states with live sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation (SB 384) in March 2020 to allow statewide mobile sports betting, plus a limited number of physical sportsbooks at five yet-to-be-built casinos. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. and closed state legislatures, Gov. Ralph Northam did not immediately sign the bill but requested amendments. On April 22, 2020, state lawmakers accepted the amendments and sports betting became law. The law went into effect on July 1, 2020.
Access to legal sportsbooks will not be immediate, however, as we’ve seen in other states. In this page we’ll cover what’s next, what sports bettors can expect in Virginia, and identify the best sites to place your wagers.
Virginia sports betting timetable
According to Virginia Lottery Chief Kevin Hall, legal sports betting should be live in Virginia ahead of the 2021 Super Bowl, set for Feb. 7. The Lottery was required to approve rules by Sept. 15, 2020, and shortly after doing so, it opened the application process, which will be annually from Oct. 15-31.
About 25 operators applied for sports betting licenses, though the lottery isn’t releasing the names of which operators. There are approximately 12 licenses available, many of those who have applied won’t get licensed. As of late December 2020, operators had not been informed of whether or not they had been approved.
Prior to the rules being approved, the Lottery rolled out Phase 1 of its proposed rules in July and Phase 2 in early August, and opened the proposed to public comment. There were 183 comments from more than 30 stakeholders, some of which were ultimately added to the rules.
Though Virginia doesn’t have casinos yet, it will after voters in four cities approved new gaming facilities on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot. Those casinos likely won’t open until 2022 or beyond, but each is entitled to one online sports betting skin (partner), and ultimately each could have a retail sportsbook.
The Virginia Lottery Commission is new to sports betting, but the timeline mandated by lawmakers is aggressive and it’s looking like sports betting will go from legal to live within an eight-month span.
In the meantime, Virginia residents will have to venture to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, or Washington, D.C. for legal sports betting action, which they’ll have to do anyway when they want to bet on in-state colleges.
The good news?
The new law mandates the Virginia Lottery issue at least four sports betting licenses and up to 12. Those numbers, however, are a little deceiving, as none of the five potential casinos, sports franchises (Washington NFL team), or operators of a facility (MLS DC United) would count toward the minimum while sports franchises and operators of a facility do not count toward the maximum number of licenses.
The Lottery says it will offer a minimum of 11 mobile platforms and a maximum of 14. Here’s how the breakdown will work: For the minimum of 11, the Lottery is counting the four required by law, five for casinos, and one each for the Washington NFL team and DC United. For the maximum of 14, the Lottery is counting the limit of 12 set by law plus one each for the Washington NFL team and MLS DC United. In this scenario, the five casinos are included in the limit of 12.
In another twist, there could be one additional license on the table in 2021 — for either Richmond Raceway or Martinsville Speedway. WynnBet partnered with both in the hopes that the NASCAR tracks would be considered pro sports venues, and be entitled to a sports betting license.
Conceptually, this should create a robust and competitive online marketplace for bettors, in addition to online sports wagering platforms connected to five future Virginia casinos.
Online & mobile sportsbooks in Virginia
With as many as 14 mobile permits to be issued major sports betting brands see a golden opportunity to enter the Virginia mobile betting scene. However, as things stand, the price to play won’t be cheap, as there’s a six-figure application fee (more on this) for a three-year license, plus a 15% tax on gross sports betting revenue. Following the three-year period, online sportsbooks will pay the Virginia Lottery should they wish to renew their license.
Though the lottery isn’t releasing the names of applicants, BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and WynnBet are in the mix. Hard Rock (Bristol), Rush Street (Portsmouth), and William Hill/Caesars (Danville) are all already partnered with casinos, giving them market access.
It’s tough to predict exactly who will apply for and obtain a license in VA, but we’re willing to make a few wagers based on what we’ve seen across the country, taking into consideration the large size and potential of the Virginia market.
DraftKings Sportsbook has quickly transitioned from DFS to sports betting, and it’s not doing so lightly. It has introduced innovative sports betting contests in New Jersey, and a large DFS player base has helped DraftKings gain market share in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Indiana, and Iowa. DraftKings also went live in Illinois in early August, but the state requires in-person registration for digital platforms, so it’s too soon to know how its performing there. Recently merging with Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp. and SBTech in a three-way deal, DraftKings became a public company on the NASDAQ in April 2020 in continuing its quest to conquer the U.S. sports betting industry.
FanDuel is DraftKings’ biggest competitor when it comes to DFS, and their battles continue as sports betting expands. Already situated in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Indiana, FanDuel Sportsbook is sure to have its eyes set on Virginia.
We also expect these players, among others, to emerge in Virginia:
Land-based books and casinos
Casino legislation has been a topic of conversation among VA representatives for the better part of two years, and this bill finally brings things to fruition. Cities are already looking to capitalize on the new law which allows certain ones to open brick-and-mortar casinos, once they get approval from their residents by way of a November 2020 referendum.
- The Pamunkey Tribe has a deal in place with Norfolk to build a casino and in August 2020 purchased land in Richmond to build a casino, however a referendum to allow gaming likely won’t go on the ballot until 2021;
- The Hard Rock Casino has a deal in place to operate at a Bristol location. According to the Herald-Courier, the plan is build a 100,000 square foot casino and a 100,000 square foot contention center;
- According to Virginia Business, the city of Danville made a deal with Caesars Entertainment with plans to build conference center, live-entertainment venue, and a casino;
- Hampton city leaders want to be included in all state legislation moving forward;
- Portsmouth has partnered with Rush Street Gaming to open an entertainment area near Tidewater College.
Considering Portsmouth’s partnership with Rush Street, it’s safe to say Virginians will have access to the company’s BetRivers sportsbook sooner or later, similar to those in physical casinos in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, along with mobile sites where permissible.
Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder is a potential newcomer to the sports betting industry. The team — which is in the process of a name change — is currently headquartered in Ashburn, Va., but plays games at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Landover lease ends in 2027 and Snyder has shopped the DMV area — Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia — in hopes of finagling a new stadium with the lure of sports betting inside to attract fans.
State lawmakers hope the provision allowing pro teams and sports venues access to mobile sports wagering licenses will entice Snyder to build in Virginia. Did we mention that said casinos and sports teams will be able to launch their mobile platforms before their retail locations are built? Enticing indeed.
Laws and regulations
The Virginia Lottery is slated to have sports betting guidelines in place by the middle of September 2020, and is aiming to be able to allow operators to launch as early as January 2021. Here’s what we know now:
Fees and taxes
Though the initial bill that passed had a flat $250,000 fee, one of the governor’s amendments erased that requirement in favor of a $50,000 fee per “principal” in each organization. Principals include only those who have at least 5% stake in an organization. Lawmakers accepted the amendment. The tax rate is 15%.
“Official league data”
Virginia will also be the fourth state to controversially require the use of “official league data,” joining Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee. This means that all licensed sportsbooks have to obtain data feeds from a sports league’s governing body in order to grade and settle in-play wagers.
Take your UVA Final Four bets elsewhere…
Unfortunately, betting on Virginia-based college teams will not be allowed, nor will any prop bets on college athletics. Some other states including New Jersey have imposed similar restrictions with respect to wagering on in-state teams.
What’s going on in the neighborhood?
D.C. law, with the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming as its regulatory body, allows for mobile sports betting with the Lottery and at professional sports arenas. The Lottery launched its GamBetDC platform to mixed reviews just after Memorial Day 2020, in the middle of COVID-19 restrictions. At the end of July, the retail sportsbook at Capital One Arena began taking bets via 10 kiosks and teller windows. The William Hill book is the first in a professional sports facility anywhere in the U.S.
The sports licensing application fee in D.C. is $250,000, with a $250,000 renewal fee. According to some reports, the Washington NFL team is much more focused on working out a deal in either Maryland or Virginia than returning to D.C.
Voters in November approved legal sports betting, and now it will be up to the state legislature to develop a framework. Voters simply voted “yes” or “no” to legal digital and retail sports betting at casinos, racetracks, and professional sports venues, all regulated by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control. Maryland is already home to MGM National Harbor, Caesars Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, and Maryland Live! in Arundel Mills. In March, facing a shortened session as COVID-19 stay-at-home orders began to take effect, lawmakers passed a stripped down version of the referendum, meaning all fees, taxes, and other structure were removed from the referendum bill with the idea that lawmakers would make those issues a priority in 2021 should voters approve the measure.
Sports betting has been live at West Virginia casinos since 2018, and WV mobile betting followed in 2019. Now online casino gambling is on its way to the Mountaineer State. As far as sports betting is concerned, once Virginia mobile betting launches, West Virginia could lose customers who have been crossing the state line for action. However, some Virginia bettors may still make the occasional road trip in order to bet on their beloved alma maters.
FAQ about Virginia sports betting
It’s coming, but not quite yet. The Virginia Lottery has approved regulations and is vetting applications. The goal is to launch operators before the 2021 Super Bowl.
There will be anywhere from 4-12 online sportsbooks, plus mobile platforms for five future Virginia casinos as well as pro sports teams with headquarters in Virginia.
The only thing set in stone is the exclusion of college props and bets on local schools. Other than that, bettors should expect to have access to bets that are commonly available in other states.
You will be able to bet on local professional teams but not on local college teams within the state of Virginia. You will not be able to live-bet (in-game wager) on college sports under any circumstances.
When sports betting goes live, convenient and safe deposit/withdrawal options will be available, which is a sigh of relief for anyone who may have been using offshore sportsbooks operating illegally in the U.S. These methods include:
- PayPal – Connect your PayPal account in order to make instantaneous deposits.
- ACH/eCheck – Load funds directly from your connected bank account.
- Site-specific prepaid debit cards – Sportsbooks will likely offer branded pre-paid cards that double as ATM cards.
- Online banking – Log into your banking account through the portal.
- Skrill – another e-wallet like PayPal
- Visa/Mastercard – acceptance rates for credit/debit card transactions are slowly on the rise, but still low
- Cash at the casino cages – once constructed
- Paper check
Virginia sports betting journey
Virginia has always been for lovers, but it will soon be for gamblers.
Along with sports betting, Virginia will allow up to five casinos to be built, which is historic considering casinos — both commercial and tribal — have been absent throughout Virginia’s history. The arrival of casinos will come more than 30 years after Virginia voters brought the lottery to the Old Dominion in 1987.
Though casino gambling and sports betting will be new, Virginians are no strangers to betting on horse races.
Of course, the sports betting part would not have been possible without the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn PASPA in May 2018.
Virginia lawmakers were quick to react to the landmark decision, introducing the first bill to legalize and regulate sports betting as soon as November 2018. What followed was a back-and-forth between lawmakers and Gov. Northam, which they eventually sorted out. The Virginia Lottery is currently reviewing applications. With minimal hiccups, mobile betting should be live by early 2021.